By Steve Dunn May 2020 

My fascination with Digital Keys began with a loathing for keycard locks. Like most people I’d never really stopped to think about locks and keys before in my life. That was until I started renting a permanent apartment inside an Australian Hotel, where I was constantly being locked out by the failing keycards.

The lockouts begain in 2007. Like many hotels in Australia, a lot of the apartments and rooms in the hotel are owned by independent parties, often retired couples or families. The owner rents their apartment out for a permanent rental or a holiday rental. If it’s a holiday rental, then there is usually some on-site management such as a hotel chain. If it’s a permanent rental, then it’s common that an offsite real estate agency managers the property on the owners’ behalf. 


So at least once or twice a week, I found myself being locked out of my apartment, as the keycard would simply stop working. That little red light on the top of the lock soon began to drive me mad. Perhaps you've experienced it before? Now this wouldn't have been too much of a problem if my apartment was, say, on the same floor as the reception desk. But my apartment was on the fourth floor, and the reception desk was on the bottom floor of the apartment building on the other side of the car park, and up the long driveway. There was no reception desk in the building I lived in. There used to be one. Someday someone realized they didn't need a reception desk on our side, and so they closed it. 


Well there were actually two separate car parks that I had to walk across, one for my building, and one for the other building. This car park was always busy. There were no walkways. In the wet season it was like a lake. By the time I got to the reception desk, there always seemed to be a line-up. My keycard seemed to somehow decide to conk itself out every time a bus load of Chinese tourists had arrived to check in. 


One other thing I noticed with my keycard, was that it also seemed to conk out every time I came back from shopping. And, yes, it also liked to conk out every time I had icecream or margarine in the shopping bags. Now this wouldn't have been too much of a problem either, if we weren't living in the tropics—or if there was air-conditioning in the hallway. I guess most of the rooms on our floor were permanent rentals, and nobody wanted to pay for the common area air conditioning. 


Now, once again this wouldn't have been much of a problem—but my wife is from a cold climate. My wife is from some mountain ranges in central Japan. And our little girl was only two at the time (tantrums!) So by the time I had to wait in the queue at the reception desk, to get to speak to the front desk reception staff to ask them to re-magnetize my card, I was pretty pissed off. The reception staff never seemed happy either. Perhaps there were plenty of other people like me coming down all the time to visit them to get our keycard working again—and they hardly ever got a break from it all?


So it wasn't that I was simply being locked out of my apartment that caused me to look for an alternative. It was the combination of melting ice cream, un-air-conditioned hallways, stifling humidity, restless child, frustrated wife (who also knew how long it took each time to go back to the reception desk to get the keycard re-magnetised), busloads of Chinese tourists, long queues, snotty reception desk staff, and dangerous wet car parks, that lead me on my digital keys journey. 


Like any journey these days, it began on the internet. I began looking for alternatives to keycards. We had the mag-stripe type of lock in our apartment. I learned these types of locks became prevalent in hotels around thirty years ago. The snotty reception staff told me that these mag-stripe locks were the ones prone to being demagnetized when held next to a mobile phone, or car key fob. That didn’t help, as I always carried my phone and car key fob in my pocket everywhere I went. In time I built the core root of the problem into the solution.


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